Wood accent wall ideas - 9 ways to add a luxe yet rustic touch to a modern home

Wood accent wall ideas are so much more layered and textured than tiles and paint. Top designers share their best

living room with white wood panels and grey sofas
(Image credit: Studio Duggan)

Wood accent walls are not an area of design that gets commonly considered. We don’t think twice about reaching for paint swatches or wallpaper samples when we are thinking about updating a room in our house, but the possibilities that wood brings can be endless. Character, charm, texture...used well, it can add them all. 

In fact, as the interior designer Jensen Killen from Logan Killen Interiors, says, wood accent walls are an “effortless way to introduce architectural interest, while also providing a more durable wall surface." 

So whether it is a wood feature that speaks to the character of the house, or a practical design solution that is both economical and hard-wearing, there is an option to introduce a little rustic charm to every type of property and interior design aesthetic. 

Wood accent wall ideas

1. Use wood in newer homes to add character 

bedroom with navy wood panelling as the headboard

(Image credit: Future)

In this new build addition to a country farmhouse, designer Rebecca Wakefield's brief was to add more personality and texture, and using painted wood behind a bed was a wonderful way to do this.

 "We didn’t have many internal architectural features like original coving and skirting, so this was a way to create character," Rebecca say. "It feels sympathetic to a new build extension of an old stone farmhouse style house. We used this type of paneling elsewhere in the house which made it feel consistent and holistic.’

2. Paint wood panels for a kitchen backsplash

green kitchen with tounge and groove backsplash and brass tap

(Image credit: Laura Stephens)

Wood accent walls are about more than just charater - they're durable and can be inexpensive, too. Laura Stephens explains how moisture resistant MDF can be a brilliant, budget friendly backsplash in a modern kitchen.

“As the wood panelling is painted in an eggshell finish it’s super practical," Laura says. "And I love the way the shelf finishes it nicely whilst allowing for display.”

For this scheme, she used Travertine by Little Greene, just a few tones lighter than her cabinets as a way to make the tongue and groove effect stand out. 

3. Cover floor to ceiling paneling in the same color 

dark blue living room with wood panelling on the walls

(Image credit: Tamsin Johnson)

The unifying choice of color and the paneling together create an intimate and stylish atmosphere in this dark blue living room. The interior designer behind the project, Tamsin Johnson, explains more. 

“The gridded paneling in this media room is a contemporary take on the traditional detail," Tamsin says. "And is typically used in period homes. I wanted to create a cozy and charming space with an addition of 1980's lighting.”

4. Safeguard high traffic areas 

eclectic living room with wood panelling on the walls and fringed sofa and armchair

(Image credit: Logan Killen Interiors)

For obvious reasons hotel designs need to work hard and be particularly durable due to the volume of people going through their doors. Jensen Killen, from Logan Killen Interiors, used wood panelling to help keep the walls looking pristine, an idea that can be borrowed for our homes. 

Jensen gives some great advice about how you could use a similar approach in your own home by including “wood paneled walls in high traffic areas such as a laundry or mudroom, painted in a mid-tone semi gloss. Or go for an applied trim approach to dress up a room with otherwise large blank wall surfaces.”

5. Enhance the texture of a room 

rustic bedroom with white wood panelling

(Image credit: Christian Bense)

Layers of texture are what add character to a space, and are as important to think about as the color or style. 

“I always try to include as much texture into a space as possible,“ says the interior designer Christian Bense. “And a simple grooved wall panel is a great way of doing this. Not everybody is a fan of a pattern or wallpaper, so painted timber paneling is great to add in texture, depth and a subtle vertical line. In this modern bedroom the paneling on the walls matched the paneling used on the joinery (to the right) so the whole room felt considered.”

6. Enhance existing original period features  

living room with white wood panels

(Image credit: Studio Duggan)

If your home has period features, such as wood paneling, find a way to incorporate it into your design for the room. Interior designer Tiffany Duggan from Studio Duggan explains how they did just that in this living room.

 “We were lucky enough that the wood paneling in this space was original and such a lovely feature worth retaining," she says. "We limed the wood to lighten the feel of the room whilst preserving the natural grain of the wood. It adds such warmth and heritage.”

7. Up the coziness

fireplace with wood panels surrounding it

(Image credit: Colombe Studio)

Wood panelling doesn't have to be planks, and thinly slatted wood is one of the biggest interior design trends right now. Marta Chrapka from Colombe Studios has utilized it so as to elevated the wall surrounding this beautiful, making a neutral scheme feel instantly more cozy.

 “We wanted the interior to be elegant but at the same time cozy," Marta says. "The use of a brush painted grooved wood gave us such an effect.” 

8. Soften wood accent walls with fabric

green bedroom with wood panelling behind the bed

(Image credit: Old Piggery)

Michaela Bott from the Old Piggery instagram account explains how she created a sense of calm with her bedroom decor. “We designed this headboard using the idea of a popular cladding style," she says. "Covering the wood paneling with a stunning felted wool from Linwood gave it a softer feel. The little shelf and ruffle underneath all help to bring the more gentle approach."

The headboard spans the entire width of the back wall with bedsides all covered in the same fabric which creates a sense of unity.

9. Swap tiles for wood

wood kitchen wall with knives hanging on it

(Image credit: Colombe Studio)

The depth and interest achieved by the wood wall in this kitchen is undeniable - it has a modern farmhouse vibe now. However, having veneer panels on a kitchen wall isn’t often the first solution you think of. 

Designer Marta Chrapka from Colombe Studios explains how she came to think about it after being asked by her client to avoid tiles. “Because the entire home is decorated in a mid-century modern style, the arrangement of exotic veneer panels seemed to be the most aesthetically pleasing solution,” she says.

What type of wood is used for accent walls?

Many different types of wood can be used for accent walls, but the best are thin wood veneers or MDF. These won't protrude into the room too much, or be too heavy on the wall. 

Oak is a common wood color for accent walls - it's warm yet not too heavy, and so doesn't overpower the rest of the scheme. 

Charlotte Alldis started her interiors Instagram account Thrifted Abode nearly five years ago. Since then she has renovated two properties and has been passionately learning about interior design along the way.  She has just launched her interior design consultancy whilst also continuing to work as a Marketing Director for a hotel. Her work as a marketeer over the last decade has given her great foundations to appreciate good aesthetic design and the power of fantastic photography. She is beyond excited to finally kick start her interior design business.